Originally published at The Sun Sentinel.

Written by Marcia Heroux Pounds

Manufacturing workers in Florida make an average of $3,786 more per year than other employees, according to a report released Thursday.

The average was for a manufacturing job is $18 an hour, compared with $16.17 for other jobs, reported the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, D.C.

Manufacturing jobs make up 4.2 percent of total employment in Florida, which ranks 44th in the nation in its share of manufacturing jobs.

The report "makes clear just how crucial the manufacturing sector is to the nation's economy," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. "Manufacturing's wage premium is a clear path to the middle class."

Entry-level machinists in South Florida earn $16 to $18 an hour. After 10 to 12 years, machinists can earn $20 to $25 an hour, according to Dennis Battistella, coordinator for the South Florida Manufacturers Association's apprentice program with Atlantic Technical College in Coconut Creek.

Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth also provides machinist and other technical job training.

The EPI study, "The Manufacturing Footprint and the Importance of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs," found that the sector employed 12 million workers in 2013, or about 8.8 percent of total U.S. employment, including a higher overall share of workers without a college degree.On average, these workers made 10.9 percent, or $1.78 an hour, more than similar workers elsewhere in the economy.

In addition to the 12 million people employed in U.S. manufacturing, the sector supports some 17.1 million indirect jobs, for a total of 29.1 million jobs directly and indirectly supported — more than one fifth of total U.S. employment in 2013.